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The Mission Continues…

In 1949 (when postage stamps were 3¢, bread 14¢, gas 26¢ / gal, and the minimum wage a full 40¢ per hour), a group of Tampa citizens embarked upon a project that would continue 60 years later and literally impact thousands of lives in Hillsborough County. 


Admittedly, their initial mission was singular in scope. Since Tampa provided no psychiatric services for children, these forward thinking leaders began the Child Guidance Center.  Its Board of Directors consisted of a broad range of Tampa’s leaders, including women, clergymen, doctors and business people.  The Guidance Center even benefited from the medical services of Rosalind Cummings Murray, Tampa’s first woman psychiatrist.  Another local psychiatrist, Jerry Fleischaker, MD, served as the Guidance Center’s first full-time Director.  As history tells it, he was very well-spoken on mental health concerns. 


The Center’s mission remained primarily focused on children until 1962, when it expanded treatment to adults.  Prior to this, adults with mental illness found themselves often sent to “6 East”, the psychiatric confinement wing at Tampa General Hospital or to the State Mental Hospital. 


Later the board changed the name to Mental Health Care Inc. (MHC), because it provided care for all ages.  From that period onward, MHC’s mission has remained to provide individuals and families in our community with comprehensive behavioral health services, so that they may experience optimal mental health and lead contributive, purposeful lives.


Eventually, Mental Health Care Inc.’s main center moved to 22nd Street, and it has continued to expand its programs across Hillsborough County to meet the needs of all residents.          


MHC responds to community needs and creates innovative, viable solutions. For example, Home Based Solutions began as a result of children with Medicaid needing more therapeutic supports within the family and at school.  It is an intervention program that started in July to provide case management and treatment services for children up to 17 years old.  Mike Hull, who previously was employed by Mental Health Care, Inc for 8 years, has returned to supervise Home Based Solutions.  Referrals to the program can come through the school system, by parents or by calling directly to the Nebraska Office at 813- 231-1420.


Another such innovative program is the Looking Ahead Program.  As the only one of its kind in Hillsborough County, the program seeks to assist people with a mental illness and felony backgrounds.  To those incarcerated with mental illness who do not receive appropriate treatment and support, life is reduced to the endless revolving doors between jail cells and psychiatric crisis units.  It can be a life filled with loneliness, hopelessness, and suffering. The Looking Ahead Program provides a multi-disciplinary approach to working with mentally ill individuals who have a history of delinquent behavior.  Working in collaboration with another local provider, MHC provides case management services for those who return to the community from jail or prison.  We are proud to point out reductions in recidivism rates. This is a highly intensive program that builds daily living skills, provides links to community resources, and educates about mental illness while providing the needed supports.  To refer a client that may be interested in this voluntary case management program, contact Jada Ross at 597-8755.


An even more recent addition is the Wellness Program, located at Violet Street, which meets the unique needs of individuals diagnosed with a mental illness that find themselves between inpatient and outpatient services.  If a client finds traditional outpatient services overwhelming, this program is designed to prevent hospitalization or function as a transition from inpatient services.   The general focus and goal of this treatment is to find solutions, relieve distress, and restore and/or improve level of functioning among clients. Services available are individual, couple or family therapy, medication consultations and case management services are available.  Heather Ellis, Program Supervisor, can be reached at 813-673-4622.  


Lastly, Amethyst Respite Center in Drew Park is another innovative approach to the treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse.  On the cutting edge, MHC, in collaboration with ACTS, provides case management services to facilitate treatment instead of incarceration.  This is the first pre-booking diversion program for individuals with addiction issues in Hillsborough County.


Just as we did 60 years ago, Mental Health Care Inc. approaches strategic planning as an opportunity to take the pulse of our community and identify needs or gaps in services to better enhance the lives of all.  One of the great attributes of Mental Health Care, Inc. is the ever growing and expanding of services to meet the unmet needs of our community.